In the Swamp of Daily Life, the Lotus Blooms
By Tergar Meditation Community Team • 5 min read
In the 21st century, we’re connected to one another in myriad ways, from global commerce, to geopolitical alliances, to the internet. But the highest way to connect with each other is through love and compassion. By engaging in bodhisattva training, we can become of true benefit to ourselves and others, making these connections meaningful.
The word “bodhisattva” refers to those who have the courage and determination to work towards enlightenment by helping all sentient beings. This altruistic motivation and commitment to become a fully realized buddha in order to help all beings realize their own true nature and become buddhas themselves is called bodhichitta. The various hardships of samsara do not discourage them but, instead, become their path to awakening. In fact, it’s precisely those hardships that form the basis for the journey of growth, learning, and transformation; obstacles become opportunities to flourish. This is why bodhisattvas are often compared to lotuses, which grow in the muck of a swamp while remaining fresh and bright. Although they live in the mud of samsara, bodhisattvas are not harmed or corrupted by it. Instead, they use it as nourishment.
We can’t avoid hardships and difficulties, even if we try. What we can do instead is to develop courage and diligence. In Buddhism, diligence is referred to as “joyful effort .” A key bodhisattva practice is to welcome every problem as an opportunity to grow and help others. This is how to stay fresh in any circumstance.
“Compassion, a sense of caring, thinking about others’ welfare. That sort of attitude brings me inner peace. It has defined the purpose of my life.”
– 14th Dalai Lama –
A bodhisattva practices fulfilling the aspiration for enlightenment. While helping beings, they are simultaneously pursuing their own journey of inner awakening. It is a process of connecting with their own innate goodness by nurturing awareness, love, compassion, and wisdom. This leads to recognition of their fundamental enlightened nature. The more clearly we are able to recognize our true nature, the more capacity we have to benefit beings—it is a virtuous circle.
None of us could exist for even a moment apart from our environment, so a bodhisattva cares for and purifies the environment they depend upon. The Mahayana tradition also emphasizes four specific ways of enriching the environment called “The Four Ways of Building Community.” These are generosity, caring speech, living in harmony, and helping others with a single aspiration.
There are many ways of expressing generosity, including material generosity, protecting beings from fear, and treating beings with love and compassion. But the most important for building community is spiritual generosity, in the form of giving teachings. Mingyur Rinpoche’s father, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, was a prime example of this: from morning to evening he made himself available to anyone who came to him. Regardless of their identity, status, or background, he welcomed them. Another fine example was Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. He never refused when asked for a teaching—he always answered questions with a smile.
How we communicate with other people is an extremely important part of building community. We can do our best to always speak kindly, try to have productive conversations, and listen to others’ problems.
Living in harmony with others is another important part of building community. Regardless of someone’s status, rank, income bracket, personality, or circumstances, we can try to meet each person we encounter where they are, extending an attitude of hospitality and respect.
The true causes of happiness are our natural awareness, love, compassion, and wisdom, which are with us all the time and only need to be recognized. To build community, a bodhisattva acts with the single aspiration of helping everyone to discover these true causes of happiness.
There are particular qualities a bodhisattva attempts to embody. Generosity, for example, and ethics. Also patience, which means cultivating a resilient mind. Joyful effort arising from a sense of meaning and purpose. Concentration. Mindfulness. And most importantly, wisdom.
The cultivation of these qualities, or the six paramitas, is an ancient practice, but it holds a treasure trove of benefit for us in the world we live in today.
Watch this video “The Way of Bodhisattva for the Modern World” by Mingyur Rinpoche, in which he talks about modern-life application of The Way of the Bodhisattva, a celebrated text written by Shantideva in 8th-century India.
Explore The Way of the Bodhisattva Immersion course to to remain grounded, emotionally balanced, and compassionate in the face of great adversity.
Tergar Meditation Community supports individuals, practice groups, and meditation communities around the world in learning to live with awareness, compassion, and wisdom. Grounded in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage of our guiding teacher, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, our online and in-person programs are accessible to people of all cultures and faiths, and support a lifelong path toward the application of these principles in everyday life.
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